ICD-10 9 OMIM DiseasesDB MedlinePlus eMedicine MeSH D012220

Rhinitis /rˈntɪs/ is a medical term for irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose. Common symptoms of rhinitis are a stuffy nose, runny nose, and post-nasal drip.[1] The most common kind of rhinitis is allergic rhinitis,[2] which is usually triggered by airborne allergens such as pollen and dander.[3] Allergic rhinitis may cause additional symptoms, such as sneezing and nasal itching, coughing, headache,[4] fatigue, malaise, and cognitive impairment.[5][6][7] The allergens may also affect the eyes, causing watery, reddened or itchy eyes and puffiness around the eyes.[4]

Rhinitis is very common. Allergic rhinitis is more common in some countries than others; in the United States, about 10%-30% of adults are affected annually.[8]

In rhinitis, the inflammation of the mucous membrane is caused by viruses, bacteria, irritants or allergens. The inflammation results in the generation of large amounts of mucus, commonly producing a runny nose, as well as a stuffy nose and post-nasal drip. In the case of allergic rhinitis, the inflammation is caused by the degranulation of mast cells in the nose. When mast cells degranulate, they release histamine and other chemicals,[9] starting an inflammatory process that can cause symptoms outside the nose, such as fatigue and malaise.[10]


Rhinitis is categorized into three types: (i) infective rhinitis includes acute and chronic bacterial infections; (ii) nonallergic (vasomotor) rhinitis includes autonomic, hormonal, drug-induced, atrophic, and gustatory rhinitis, as well as rhinitis medicamentosa; (iii) allergic rhinitis, triggered by pollen, mold, animal dander, dust and other similar inhaled allergens.[2]


Rhinitis is commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection, including the common cold, which is caused by Rhinoviruses, Coronaviruses, and influenza viruses, others caused by adenoviruses, human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, enteroviruses other than rhinoviruses, and metapneumovirus, or bacterial sinusitis, which is commonly caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. Symptoms of the common cold include rhinorrhea, sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, congestion, and slight headache.

Vasomotor rhinitis

Non-allergic rhinitis refers to runny nose that is not due to allergy. Non-allergic rhinitis can be classified as either non-inflammatory or inflammatory rhinitis. One very common type of non-inflammatory, non-allergic rhinitis that is sometimes confused with allergy is called vasomotor rhinitis,[11] in which certain nonspecific stimuli, including changes in environment (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, or weather); airborne irritants (odors, fumes); dietary factors (spicy food, alcohol); sexual arousal; and emotional factors.[12] There is still much to be learned about this entity, but it is thought that these non-allergic triggers cause dilation of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose, which results in swelling, and drainage. Vasomotor rhinitis can coexist with allergic rhinitis, and this is called "mixed rhinitis." (Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice, seventh edition.) The pathology of vasomotor rhinitis appears to involve neurogenic inflammation[13] and is as yet not very well understood. Vasomotor rhinitis appears to be significantly more common in women than men, leading some researchers to believe that hormones play a role. In general, age of onset occurs after 20 years of age, in contrast to allergic rhinitis which can be developed at any age. Individuals suffering from vasomotor rhinitis typically experience symptoms year-round, though symptoms may be exacerbated in the spring and autumn when rapid weather changes are more common.[14] An estimated 17 million United States citizens have vasomotor rhinitis. The antihistamines azelastine and olopatadine, applied as nasal sprays, may both be effective for vasomotor rhinitis.[15][16] Fluticasone propionate or budesonide (both are steroids) in nostril spray form may also be used for symptomatic treatment.


Main article: Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis or hay fever may follow when an allergen such as pollen or dust is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system, triggering antibody production. These antibodies mostly bind to mast cells, which contain histamine. When the mast cells are stimulated by pollen and dust, histamine (and other chemicals) are released. This causes itching, swelling, and mucus production. Symptoms vary in severity between individuals. Very sensitive individuals can experience hives or other rashes. Particulate matter in polluted air and chemicals such as chlorine and detergents, which can normally be tolerated, can greatly aggravate the condition.

Characteristic physical findings in individuals who have allergic rhinitis include conjunctival swelling and erythema, eyelid swelling, lower eyelid venous stasis, lateral crease on the nose, swollen nasal turbinates, and middle ear effusion.[17]

Even if a person has negative skin-prick, intradermal and blood tests for allergies, they may still have allergic rhinitis, from a local allergy in the nose. This is called local allergic rhinitis.[18] Many people who were previously diagnosed with nonallergic rhinitis may actually have local allergic rhinitis.[19]

Rhinitis medicamentosa

It is a condition of rebound nasal congestion brought on by extended use of topical decongestants (e.g., oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, and naphazoline nasal sprays) that work by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose.

Chronic atrophic rhinitis

Chronic rhinitis in form of atrophy of the mucous membrane and glands.

Rhinitis sicca

Chronic form of dryness of the mucous membranes.

Polypous rhinitis

Chronic rhinitis associated with polyps in the nasal cavity.


The management of rhinitis depends on the underlying cause. High-dose administration of Vitamin B12 has been additionally validated to stimulate the activity of the body's TH1 suppressor T-Cells, which then down-regulates the over-production of the allergen antibody IgE in allergic individuals which could decrease both near and long term manifestations of rhinitis symptomology.[20][21]


External links

  • Rhinitis at Centers for Chronic Nasal and Sinus Dysfunction
  • Sinus Infection And Allergic Rhinitis
  • Specialist Library for ENT and Audiology Hay fever resources – online library of high quality research on hay fever and other ENT disorders
  • Daily Pollen Count in the USA
  • Information on hay fever and children from Seattle Children's Hospital
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